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Special Educational Needs

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 12 May 2022

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Ceisteanna (138, 150)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

138. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education the steps which she intends to take to cater for the increasing numbers of children requiring access to ASD units at post-primary level in the wider Athlone area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22475/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

150. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education the steps which she intends to take to cater for the increasing numbers of children requiring access to ASD units at primary level in the wider Athlone area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22474/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 150 together.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.

This year, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing a wide range of schemes and supports for children with special educational needs.

This includes additional teaching and care supports.

As a result, the number of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide.

Over the last two years, my Department and the NCSE have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special needs placements ahead of each new school year.

I am satisfied that this more joined up approach is delivering. Through this intensive intervention, we have seen an additional 300 special classes, providing 1,800 new places, opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school-year.

I also acknowledge that notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

The NCSE has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Budget 2022 provided for the creation of 287 additional special classes for the 2022/2023 school year. These additional classes will provide over 1,700 new places from September next.

The NCSE is currently engaging in a process of establishing new classes for the 2022/2023 school year and beyond. Both my Department and the NCSE are always grateful to schools who express a willingness to open a special class to meet the educational needs of students in their local communities. It is of course open to any school to engage with the NCSE to establish a special class.

There are Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) located across the country and they have a specific remit in helping and supporting parents in accessing the education necessary for their children, including in identifying suitable school placements.

I want to reassure the Deputy that my Department will continue to support the NCSE and schools through the provision of the necessary funding and capital investment to ensure all children are successful in accessing an education.

Information on the list of schools with special classes, the type and location of these classes is published on the NCSE website and is available at ncse.ie/special-classes.

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